Yesterday, I was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for their World Today program on His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I am giving below the transcript as provide by ABC on its website.
Although the discussion only touched on the issue of devolution of authority, His Holiness’ statement refers to some other points that may see increased discussions in the coming months. One of them is his suggestion for an international fact-finding team to see the state of affairs in Tibet. Let us see how the Chinese take up this challenge.
According to ABC, “The World Today is a comprehensive current affairs program which backgrounds, analyses, interprets and encourages debate on events and issues of interest and importance to all Australians.”
ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Dalai Lama has announced that he will step down from his role as the political leader of the Tibetan exile government.
By devolving his powers the Dalai Lama would give the prime minister greater clout as the region seeks autonomy from China.
Tibetans will vote for a new prime minister this month with the elections seen as ushering in a generation of younger leaders.
The Dalai Lama told a gathering of supporters in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala that it was time for them now to pick a new political successor.
Bhuchung Tsering previously worked in the office of the Dalai Lama.
He’s currently the vice president for Special Programs for the International Campaign for Tibet and a member of the Task Force on Negotiations.
He spoke to me a short time ago from Washington.
I asked him why the Dalai Lama had made this decision now.
BHUCHUNG TSERING: I would say there are two main reasons why he has taken this step.
First of all as explained in his statement this is part of his long held aspiration if you will to democratise the Tibetan community and to encourage the Tibetan people in the democratic system of governance.
Secondly I think it is also in a way to enable the Tibetan struggle to sustain itself even in the absence of the Dalai Lama.
So it is these two objectives that I think that has made His Holiness to announce this.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Has the Dalai Lama do you think lost touch with the younger Tibetans who are reported to be agitating for a more militant approach in opposing Chinese rule?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: No to the contrary I would say that he has been able to really adapt with all changing situations and all changing points of view.
And that younger generation of Tibetans whether inside Tibet or outside and more importantly inside Tibet, those who may not have even seen him revere him because of the historical connection between the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Is the Dalai Lama at all concerned though that if he does go now, that the struggle for Tibetan independence might turn violent?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: No I don’t think when now we should understand that this position that he has announced on March 10th doesn’t mean that he is resigning in the sense that we know of in the West for example, that he is retiring into some sunshine place without doing anything.
He will always be there. And this statement also makes it very clear that he is a Tibetan and as long as the Tibetan people have faith in him, rely on him, he will be there as one among them.
So he is not going away. But what is happening is that he is making another push for making the Tibetan self-reliant.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Now the Chinese say that the Dalai Lama is playing tricks; that he really has no intention of resigning. What’s your response to that?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: Unfortunately we can only expect such utterances from the Chinese officials because this touches on a very critical part as far as the Chinese are concerned.
On the one hand they are afraid of the Dalai Lama’s influence and they do not want him to have any influence on the Tibetan people.
On the other hand the Dalai Lama’s existence is because of a spiritual process and not because the Communist Party has given him this legitimacy.
So for this Dalai Lama to take any immediate decisions which might impact the future Dalai Lamas, the Chinese may have a political agenda on the future Dalai Lamas and the actions of this Dalai Lama does not go according to their plan.
So therefore they want the Dalai Lama’s experiment to fail so I don’t think they have the courage to welcome the Dalai Lama’s moves.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Do the Chinese do you think have more to fear from a democratically elected Tibetan representative?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: I do not know whether they have more to fear. But one thing is for sure – when there is a situation where the directly elected leader of the Tibetan people take the helm of the direction of the movement, there will be more voices that are there which may not be there currently which will be having an impact on the future policies of the Tibetan administration if there is no solution during that time.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: What do you think will be the Chinese response then when the Dalai Lama actually does step aside?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: My hunch will that first they would again said that this hasn’t changed anything, that the Dalai Lama continues to be there. Somehow they’ll make a connection somewhere.
But internally I am sure even before that, right now as we speak there must be debriefings going on within the Chinese leadership as to its implication to them.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Is there a timetable for the Dalai Lama’s political exit?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: Right now from what he said on March 10th he will present a proposal, a formal proposal to the Tibetan parliament in exile which meets on March 14th.
And the parliament in exile then if according to the process that we the Tibetans have will then take up amendments to the charter in exile.
Now depending on how the Dalai Lama approaches the parliament and how the parliament takes up the issue we might see either developments which can sort of see an immediate change in the system or even months of deliberation during which there might be emotional feelings expressed or even (inaudible) from inside Tibet.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Is it possible that the Dalai Lama’s resignation will be refused?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: That’s also possible and also very natural because as a Tibetan myself I know the emotional feeling. Even myself while reading the statement and while even though I have heard him say that several times before, seeing this now sort of coming near fruition, it gives me the jittery as to what it may mean.
But at the same time I can understand the foresight of His Holiness and can see that it is for the Tibetan people’s own good that we sort of accept this positively and try to work with His Holiness towards making ourselves self reliant.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: But despite that, it is possible that no matter how much he wants to go, he won’t be allowed to go?
BHUCHUNG TSERING: Exactly, that is also plausible, that the parliament may say they cannot decide on this; they do not want to decide on this and then either go back to His Holiness or therefore taking any decision by having discussions and without reaching any solution. That is also possible.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: And that’s Bhuchung Tsering who previously worked in the office of the Dalai Lama.